Thousands Of Islands Could Become Uninhabitable By Mid-21st Century

Posted: Apr 27 2018, 1:04pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 28 2018, 12:26am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Thousands of Islands Could be Uninhabitable by Mid-21st Century
Credit: Thomas Reiss, US Geological Survey

The combination of Sea-level rise and flooding will affect freshwater resources on many low-lying islands in such a way that many of them could be uninhabitable in just a few decades

Climate change may turn thousands of world islands into deserted places by the middle of the century. A new study reveals that many low-lying islands across the world could become uninhabitable due to the excessive sea level rise. The rising seas will trigger frequent flooding, which can lead to widespread destruction of island infrastructure and freshwater sources.

"The tipping point when potable groundwater on the majority of atoll islands will be unavailable is projected to be reached no later than the middle of the 21st century," said lead author Curt Storlazzi from United States Geological Survey. “Such information is key to assess multiple hazards and prioritize efforts to reduce risk and increase the resiliency of atoll islands' communities around the globe.”

The recent projections suggest that islands in Pacific and Indian oceans that stand just meters above sea level will experience most of the negative impact. Specifically, Republic of the Marshall Islands could be hit hard by the combination of sea level rise and wave-driven flooding. The Republic of the Marshall Islands consists of more than 1,100 low-lying islands on 29 atolls and is home to hundreds of thousands of people. To assess the likely impact of sea level rise and flooding on terrestrial infrastructure, researchers used a variety of scenarios and came up with an outcome that could serve as a proxy for islands around the world with similar structure and morphology.

The study was conducted on Roi-Namur Island on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands from November 2013 to May 2015. Although many studies focus on the future sea level rise, they do not take into account the additional hazard of wave-driven overwash (flow of water from a storm) and its impact on freshwater availability.

"The overwash events generally result in salty ocean water seeping into the ground and contaminating the freshwater aquifer,” explained Stephen Gingerich, USGS hydrologist, and study co-author. “Rainfall later in the year is not enough to flush out the saltwater and refresh the island's water supply before the next year's storms arrive repeating the overwash events.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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